"go to plan" (1936, UK)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Aug 18 03:04:10 UTC 2008

On Sun, Aug 17, 2008 at 9:13 PM, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> The OED3 draft entry for "plan" includes "according to plan" ('as
> intended or projected') from 1893, including cites for "go according
> to plan". Not included is "go to plan" in the same sense, particularly
> in the expression "if all goes to plan" ('if all goes well'). It seems
> to be a pretty common construction these days, at least in
> newspaperese [...]
> ---
> 1936 _Manchester Guardian_ 6 July 3/1 All went to plan, and off the
> return Hughes made the winning volley.
> ---

Looks like W.H. Auden was a fan of this expression. Here are two cites
via Literature Online:

"The sun shines down on the ships at sea," July 1932:
To-morrow if everything goes to plan,
To-morrow morning you'll be a man:
Let wishes be horses as fast as they can.
"Detective Story," July 1936:
What follows is habitual. All goes to plan:
The feud between the local common sense
And intuition, that exasperating amateur
Who's always on the spot by chance before us;
All goes to plan, both lying and confession,
Down to the thrilling final chase, the kill.

And Auden's colleague Louis MacNeice used it in "Autumn Journal" (this
section dated 1938):

The wood is white like the roast flesh of chicken,
Each tree falling like a closing fan;
No more looking at the view from seats beneath the branches,
Everything is going to plan.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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